Water Works bill flows through House

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A bill approving the Natchez Water Works to provide sewer service to a potential industry in the county passed the Mississippi House of Representatives and will soon come before the Senate.

The board of aldermen gave the bill their stamp of approval in a special meeting Tuesday.

The bill, which passed last week, authorizes the waterworks to “operate its sewer distribution system to a certain location” outside the city limits.

Email newsletter signup

Such service is limited “to the site of a proposed capital improvement project” approved by the city.

Mayor Phillip West said the city had to ask the legislature since the waterworks was interested in serving a business beyond five miles past the city limits.

The main “capital improvement project” Water Works is looking to provide sewer service for is the potential correctional facility looking to locate on U.S. 84, West said.

The waterworks is interested in serving the facility because of the jobs and economic benefits it might provide, West said.

If the facility locates in Adams County, and if they so choose, they will pay the waterworks to install the infrastructure and treat the sewage, Water Works Superintendent David Gardner said Tuesday.

“There’s no cost to the waterworks,” Gardner said. “They have to either pay for the installation themselves, or we can apply for some state or federal grants to do the infrastructure. It’s a huge economic tool we can provide.”

If the waterworks treats the sewage, it won’t interfere with Adams County Water Association’s business, since they don’t treat sewage, Gardner said.

It would also be cheaper in the long run for the facility to use the Natchez Water Works, he said. Otherwise, they would have to build their own treatment plant, which can get expensive.

“It’s a win-win for the waterworks and for the county,” Gardner said. “That’s why the House bill was so important. It gives Adams County an edge in recruiting potential economic developments.”

But this was in no way a step toward annexation or stepping on the water association’s territory, he said.

“This bill is not a means to annex or to infringe on anybody else’s franchise,” Gardner said. “All this bill is to help Adams County be competitive.”

Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Natchez) was the lead author of the House bill. The bill was intended to provide a way to serve potential industries, he said.

“It didn’t have any opposition,” Johnson said. “The way the bill passed, the only thing Natchez Water Works will be able to do is run a sewer line to that site.”

The bill now just has to pass the Senate, which could happen as early as this week or as late as the first week in April, he said.

Rep. Sam Mims (R-McComb) said he was optimistic about the bill’s chances in the Senate.

“The house bill passed 121 to zero,” Mims said. “I feel good that the senate will look at this piece of legislation and study it, and I think it will pass.”

Sen. Bob Dearing (D-Natchez) authored a similar bill for the Senate but said they would move forward with the House bill instead.

“Since the House ahs already addressed it, we thought it would be best to go ahead and address the House bill, since time is of the essence,” Dearing said.

There are roughly two weeks left in the legislative session.

The House bill has passed out of committee, Dearing said, though he couldn’t say when it would be addressed in the Senate.